From a utility control room in the berthing station’s operations bridge, Chakotay examined a computer schematic of the quadruple-nacelled Prometheus-class Perseus
. Throughout the ship, whole sections were sealed off with force fields, airlocks and blast doors; the holographic crew had replaced the majority of the biological crew. They had free run of the vessel; omnidirectional holographic diodes, or holoemitters, had been placed to project the photonic, artificially intelligent humanoids via magnetic containment fields that simulated mass. The technology gave holographic access to every cubic centimeter of the ship’s interior, though exterior installations had yet to be completed. Voyager’s own dependency on its Emergency Medical Hologram—a Mark 1 which had been restricted by design to sickbay and the holodecks—established the critical usefulness of the technology, and had since earned himself Federation citizenship status with all the attendant civil rights—(though human
rights, truthfully, had yet to be legally determined). More relevantly, the Doctor had, many times over, earned a rightful place in the family of Voyager’s
crew—as well as the respect and admiration of people from countless worlds (not excluding himself). But the Doctor, despite his lack of a name, was an individual. He had risen above his original programming. He was, of necessity, more than what Starfleet and Dr. Lewis Zimmerman had designed him to be.
Starfleet had begun taking measures to include not only EMH’s on every ship of the line constructed since Voyager’s triumphant return to the Alpha Quadrant, but to expand the technology to include a full crew compliment in ships bound for deep space. Prometheus-class vessels were the first designed for full ship automation; and Perseus
, the first to test the premise of a holographic crew to replace biological crews altogether. Which, in Chakotay’s mind, was something of more significance than a light-year-eating quantum slipstream drive. Starfleet Command reasoned that no other vessel should endure what happened to the Voyager
, and the ill-fated Equinox
; the Federation learned from its experiences. Perseus
represented the first applicable deep space rescue option started by Project Voyager since Lieutenant Reginald Barclay had bounced a subspace message of hope off a pulsar halfway across the galaxy.
But Chakotay wondered if it would end there. Starfleet had already curtailed its family and civilian residency policy that characterized ships like Picard's Galaxy-class Enterprise
D. New Sovereign-class vessels had only a fraction of such capacities. Were they witnessing a new challenge to the Federation Starfleet mandate—to cautiously probe where no one has gone before
? Of course, many interplanetary civilizations sent initial waves of automated probes and satellites out into the deep black before plotting expeditions into the unknown. But it would be an entirely different matter to seed the stars with holographic proxies in the hopes of avoiding risk.
He remembered his father.
Before setting out on an expedition of his own into the vast ancient jungles of the southern continent of Dorvan V—in his continuing quest for spiritual, cultural and self knowledge—the father Kolopak had said to his recalcitrant son: There is no safety in staying home, Cha-ko-tay. You cannot kill fear. It will walk with you in every moment of life. Those who avoid that which gives life cut down their own lives. Those who walk with the spirits—A-koo-chee-moya—disappear from fear. This is called killing the bear.
Captain Chakotay of Voyager
turned off the computer and went to the viewport. He paid no attention to the orbital fleetyards, the globular radials of the space stations, nor the great fleet starships in various stages of construction—but focused instead on the brilliant, terrible red planet below, scarred and bitten by eons of exposure in cosmos.
He was not afraid. He had killed the bear.
The computer sounded: Incoming transmission from the shuttle Sally Ride
Chakotay sat at a console and tapped the interface. “What is it, Seven?”
“Are you aware of the current situation, Captain Chakotay?” Seven of Nine transmitted her plan. The schematic appeared on an adjacent workstation.
“Commander Kim has kept me informed. I was just about to notify the Admiral. I was hoping to have something productive to report.”
“Our countermeasures have been initiated. Commander Paris is currently attempting to shut down the computer core. We believe this will disable the security lockdown and enable us to reestablish command protocols. He is currently accessing the bioneural network from an exterior plasma regulator on the dorsal hull. He is injecting the network with reprogrammed nanoprobes.”
“How long will it take?”
“Once the nanoprobes have begun replication, I estimate fourteen minutes for them to successfully deactivate the computer core. However, the security countermeasures also have a crude ability to adapt to perceived attacks. There is a point three eight variance that core shutdown will take an additional eight minutes.”
Chakotay nodded. “I’ll inform Admiral Janeway. Seven, I’m reassigning you as temporary Chief Engineer of the Perseus in the interim of B’Elanna’s medical leave.”
“Is that necessary? I do not question your orders, Captain; I am merely estimating an early return to duty for Commander Torres.”
“As long as the Doctor’s prognosis is indeterminate? I think it’s best to prepare for contingencies.”
“Would not Lieutenant Commander Vorik best serve in command of the department? There are many systems I’ve yet to inspect, and I would prefer if I did not include administrative functions to my schedule—”
“Vorik is needed on Voyager. I understand your concern, Seven. But other needs take precedence. The Perseus engine is the brainchild of Dr. Brahms’ team, and their development of technology that you and Voyager’s crew helped introduce to Starfleet. But I don’t know
her team. None of our people knows the quantum slipstream engine better than you, Seven. You’ve put in so much time—on and off duty—building that engine by the sweat of your brow. Maybe it’s a good thing to delegate some of the work to the engineering crew.”
“Still, Commander Vorik—”
“I don’t want to argue about this Seven. Not at this moment. The crew can follow your lead. You don’t have to build three warp cores, five warp coils, and twelve sets of chronophasic field generators by hand.”
“Captain. May I speak freely?”
“Not if you want to argue.”
“I will comply.”
“Alright, Seven. Let’s hear it.”
“As the crew says, Perseus is not ‘just another ship’. As you stated, it was Voyager’s crew that acquired the slipstream technology, and Voyager’s crew that has implemented quantum slipstream and transwarp velocities in several past missions, including the mission which brought us home. I can think of no crew in Starfleet more qualified to test a new ship fitted with quantum slipstream drive than the Voyager crew. However, if the trials are successful, Perseus will require a more permanent crew. In this event, it is logical to assume that at least some, if not many, will transfer assignments from Voyager.”
“You’ve got no argument from me. But Starfleet Command is not in the habit of justifying its crew deployments prior to any ship’s commissioning.”
“Nevertheless. Captain Tuvok and Commander Paris will lead the trials; they will lead a temporary crew compliment of at least sixty-three crewmen from Voyager. Yet—my deployment has yet to be determined. I cannot ascertain whether I would be offered a post on Perseus, or whether I would even accept such an offer. Speculation at this time is irrelevant.
“But I am here now. I have found, in the absence of my former crewmates…” and she briefly lowered her eyes from his, “that my sense of belonging and loyalty are not easily rendered to the humans—the people—I have encountered elsewhere. But I find my sense of loyalty has increased the further I am in space and time from the Voyager crew. It motivates me to do as much as I am personally capable of to make their mission a success. I would give Perseus the full benefit of my experience. I would give her crew the full measure of my—dedication
Chakotay fully appreciated—and reciprocated—her sentiment—but he dared not call it such.
“Seven, in terms of your disposition, Starfleet Command will give your desires their full measure of consideration. I’ll personally see to it.”
“I must think about it, Chakotay. Admiral Janeway has often helped me comprehend my bearings more fully. In personal matters, I have found a deficiency of certainty in her absence.”
“When Admiral Janeway heard you were here, she purposefully altered her schedule to arrive two days early. I think she would like to spend some time with you, Seven.”
“It is gratifying to hear. Captain. –Chakotay.”
“When the Perseus has completed its trials, would you ask me to accompany you on a short excursion to the planet? I would regret spending this time with you solely in the capacity of duty. Further, I would like to discuss my…disposition…with you in a more informal, and preferably natural setting.”
“You read my mind.”
She nodded softly. “You require rest. Do not neglect it. Sally Ride out.”
Captain Chakotay allowed himself a moment to think about Seven of Nine. He made a mental note to reserve a cabin at the rim of the Hellas Impact Basin Elysium Biocomplex, for some fresh air, solitude, and inspiring views of nature at her finest. Weather permitting.
“Computer. Open a priority channel to Utopia Planitia Orbital Station Janus, Admiralty Suite One.” To his surprise the signal responded in less than a second.
Vice Admiral Kathryn Janeway appeared on his screen, wearing a gold-collared uniform, hair perfectly arranged in a feminine semi-braided coiffure. Her eyes were a touch darker, it seemed, though it could have been the low light. A rivulet of steam framed one side of her screen, no doubt from a freshly poured cup of coffee. “Captain Chakotay,” she beamed, “it’s good
to see you again.”
“Admiral Janeway. Welcome home.”
That touched her. “Has Seven found a way to shut down the computer core yet?”
“And here I expected you to be asleep, Admiral. How did you manage to be informed?”
“Admirals of the Fleet know all, Captain. Don’t forget that.”
“Seven and Tom are using nanoprobes to override the lockdown via the bioneural network.” Admiral Janeway did not like the sound of that
, he thought. “Not to worry. We still have capability to destroy Borg technology should the need…arise. I was just on my way to Voyager to check on Harry’s progress.”
“Belay that, Captain.”
“Yes Ma’am. May I ask why?”
“The onus of leadership. Allowing your people to face these problems without any actual help from you. Worst part of the job.” She pondered a moment over her mug. “Nanoprobes,” she said in disbelief, with a hint of helplessness and a dash of irony.
“You want to assess the crew. Or is it the command?”
“This is an opportunity to see them in action before the Perseus Trial. Occasions like these are rare opportunities for Captains. They allow him to get a handle on his crews’ dynamics. Better at home than on the other side of the galaxy.”
“But you’re not referring to Voyager, are you, Kathryn. You mean the Perseus.”
“Oh Chakotay, the ramifications of quantum slipstream drive are impossible to measure. It is astounding
. We’re talking about the future of interstellar travel, not through sectors, but quadrants
of galactic space. And it’s not just the future of the Federation, Chakotay. This technology, applied with Federation policies, could affect the course of who knows
how many galactic civilizations. I’m not so sure Federation policy can even digest the impact of this kind of power. This could be the most significant jump ahead for the human race since Zephram Cochrane broke the light barrier. Not to mention the kinds of threats to Federation security this kind of technology will surely engender. There are a whole host of issues we haven’t even begun to analyze or apprehend.”
“And you believe the Voyager crew—and Captain Tuvok in particular—are the best choice for a quantum drive-equipped starship.”
She momentarily hardened her eyes at her former first officer. “Off the record? I’d start thinking about bolstering my ranks if I were you, Captain.”
“If this pans out—Perseus may be one of the most significant ships in Federation Starfleet history.” He had been trying to digest that point for the two months since he first saw the classified précis. “And with all respect to the Doctor, I’d hate to think of it being crewed by holograms.”
Vice Admiral Janeway took a sip, looked into her cup and shook her head slightly. “Utopia coffee. Leaves a little something to be desired.”
“The old crew is pleased you arrived two days early, Kathryn. The new crew is scared to death. We’ve been regaling them with embellished stories all week.”
Kathryn Janeway’s eyes lit up and she leaned forward. “Oh, Chakotay, how is
she?” she said with a girlish enthusiasm that never failed to charm and surprise him.
“You know Seven. But she seems to have taken a keen interest, not only in the Perseus engine—but in inspiring loyalty from her crewmates. Doing a fair job of it too, I’ll add. She always was a quick study. You know who she reminds me of.”
“Well, of you.”
“If you’re trying to flatter the Admiralty, Captain,” she put down her mug, and leaned into the viewscreen, “—it’s working.”
Chakotay grinned, armed with a new weapon.
“Keep me informed, Chakotay. And now, I have some documents to authorize, while the crew fills Starfleet’s newest ship with Borg nanoprobes. I suggest you find some priority business to attend for the next few hours.”
Chakotay nodded and smiled. “I’ve got just the thing.”